Intriguing psycho-historical science fiction from the British author of, most recently, Chekhov's Journey (1989). In the Arizona desert, the ancient city of Babylon has been re-created and Idled with inhabitants schooled by computer in the requisite ancient languages. Its purpose: to expose and study the deepest layers of human character and consciousness, uncluttered by distracting modern complications. Posing as visiting Greeks, Alex Winter and Deborah Tate arrive by Hovercraft, but then must bid technology farewell. The beautiful Deborah will soon be chosen the annual bride of the war-god Marduk--he intends to reintroduce bloody sacrifices in his honor as a method of cementing his hold over the people. Alex, by chance coming into possession of a forbidden video-tape, unwittingly becomes involved in a conspiracy. He is questioned by the dying King Alexander. His money is stolen, so he is sold into slavery, only to become the lover of the irreverent Thessany, Marduk's daughter. To investigate the conspiracy, Alex accepts citizenship and is computer-taught Babylonian in the Tower of Babel--but thereafter can recall only shreds of his previous life and the English language; though he does remember speculating that the city and its denizens are nothing more than a computer simulation. The conspiracy, to prevent Marduk's horrid sacrifice and enhancement of power, succeeds; Thessany dies giving birth to Alex's child, but then reappears as a ghost--an electronic ghost, wonders Alex. Thoughtful, atmospheric, provocative, often absorbing work, though Watson's prose is still no better than workaday. One of his best.